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Finding a team for your child means finding a quality coach. 6 things to look for.......
One of the biggest challenges we face when our child shows an interest in sports is finding a team for them to play on. When searching we will usually consider practical things like who else is on the team for carpooling, where the practices and games are for ease of attendance, when the practices and games are to fit into an overall plan, and the costs involved to keep it within our budget. If we have multiple kids in multiple sports it even compounds the challenge enough that we are ready to sign them up if we have satisfied these four important elements.
Not So Fast!!!!!
We have forgotten to ask the most important question. Who is the coach?
Here are 6 important qualities to look for in a youth coach.
Is the coach positive the vast majority of the time?
A big part of the development process for young athletes (and young people) involves confidence and self-esteem. It rarely develops if the coach constantly criticizes and overreacts to mistakes made by the players. Add screaming and yelling with this negativity and let the "mental check out" of a player begin and the development of the player slow.
A good coach uses positive reinforcement 90% of the time, while saving criticism for such things as a true lack of effort. Just a secret. shhhhhhhhh. Show me a coach that screams and yells negatively to kids regularly and we will be looking at a someone that is more interested in sounding like they are an expert at the sport rather than helping your kid improve. Beware!!
Does the coach value winning games over development?
Sure we all want to win and we want our coach to reinforce the importance of working hard to win each game. However, is winning valued over long term development? How can you tell? Does the coach give more playing time to the better players or are all the kids that attend practice regularly given equal time? Does the coach have the same kids start each game or do all the kids get an opportunity to start? Does the coach give kids limitations (don't shoot, pinch runners for slow players, all time goalies) or are the kids given the flexibility to make mistakes? Does the coach limit a player to one position because that is what they are best at or are they trained in multiple positions to expand their experience and abilities? Does a new player suddenly show up to play having never been to a practice because he/she is really good or the coach likes the parent?
Good coaches will give all the kids the opportunity to develop regardless of present skill level provided they are all equally working hard in practices.
Does the coach have a child on the team?
If so how does the coach treat their child? Do they put extra pressure on their child to perform? Does their child consistently get the best positions and opportunities over other kids? Do they get in squabbles during practices or games or do they get along? Does the coach always find a way to get their child involved in a key moment in the game to make a key play or are opportunities spread around to different players?
If the coach treats their child with boundaries and respect, chances are your child will be treated the same.
How does the coach handle losses?
Does the coach blame outside forces for losses (ie bad referees, terrible playing surface, opposing coaches tactics, the size and shape of the moon, ect) or are the kids consistently told that win or lose we are going to get back in practice and work even harder to improve?
A good coach will emphasize the benefits of aggressively working hard over time while being patient with the results after a loss rather than claiming the loss is evidence of faults in the kids or flaws in the system. A kid that understands effort is king is one that learns to trust that they are in control of their future.
Does the coach run a good practice?
Your and your child's time is important. You don't want to haul your child back and forth to practices when the majority of practice time is spent listening to a coach talk or watching one player play while the rest stand around. In addition, for your child's long term development, what happens in practice is much more important than games.
A good coach is holding a practice plan every practice. A good coach starts each practice on time every time. A good coach talks very little (but always positive). A good coach uses 95% of every practice on skill development. There is a difference between coaching a practice to win this weekends games and coaching a practice to help a child develop skill over time. Which is more important to you?
Does the coach use every activity to teach important values?
Every practice and every game played provide a buffet of opportunity to teach important values. Does the coach constantly take the time to stress to each kid things like work ethic, leadership, honesty, good sportsmanship, trying your best, and being thankful for all the things that are done for them?
The next time you are looking for a team for your child, take the time to do more research on what you are getting into. The quality of the coach is as important if not more important during this critical development period for your child. When making the decision make sure your child's time, effort, and your money is being spent wisely.
Part One of our series on getting the most for your child while participating in youth sports.